Mention a transatlantic cruise and thoughts come to mind of Champagne and caviar, white-gloved service and a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.
However, cruise lines have allowed us to fast-forward from the era when these journeys were designed for only the very rich and famous. A transatlantic cruise today may describe an ocean crossing or repositioning cruise—affordable for many and unknown to most. Available most months of the year, you can now travel to uncommon ports of call as a cruise ship relocates to a new region. These voyages are reasonably priced because cruise lines do not want empty ships during the crossing.
We set sail on our first repositioning cruise with 13 other St. Louisans. Our initial thoughts were that we might be bored with so much leisure time and no sight of land for seven days. In truth, there was not a moment of boredom aboard the ship, which offered an endless assortment of exciting activities for every guest no matter what their age. From the Champagne welcome reception to our final day on the water, we soon realized that there is more to see, do and learn at sea than we ever imagined.
Our ship, The Liberty of the Seas, cruises the South of Spain in the summer and fall, and the Caribbean in the winter months. We sailed the first seven days from Barcelona, Spain, with stops in Cartegena, Malaga, Seville, and finally Tenerife and La Palma in the Canary Islands, located off the coast of Africa. We spent the next seven days in transit from La Palma, Canary Islands, to Ft. Lauderdale, Fla., a distance of 3,363 nautical miles.
Most food and entertainment were included. Although most people think of an overabundance of food and midnight buffets when speaking of cruises, there were so many activities that we had to find time to slow down to relish the lavish spreads, sit-down meals or fully loaded kosher hot dogs and shakes at Johnny Rocket’s.
Bridge and mahjong consumed a few hours each afternoon for many of us, while some enjoyed table tennis battles at sea. We were proud to join the Atlantic Team, a fundraiser for Make-A-Wish Foundation. For a $10 donation, we were given the opportunity to walk, run or stroll for 30-minute intervals. The crew estimated that if each stateroom donated $10, the ship would raise $20,000—enough to make four children’s dreams come true.
While most people know cruise ships have swimming pools, this ship offered three different pools and outside spa areas. We all were given the chance to catch a wave right onboard. Some passengers grabbed surfboards and enjoyed the 40-foot -long surf simulator that included wipeouts. Others took on the signature rock wall that climbs 40 feet above the deck for majestic views of the ocean, 200 feet below. We witnessed an all-out volleyball tournament and worked out in the state-of-the-art fitness center with oceanfront views.
We watched gaucho dancers and an ice spectacular, and danced to big band music and the sounds of Glenn Miller and Benny Goodman. We also enjoyed karaoke, game shows, rumba and salsa dance classes, and big-screen movies.
Enrichment options were plentiful, as well. We attended a painting demonstration with renowned artist Rob Kaz, absorbed history at lectures on Christopher Columbus and learned how to burn fat faster and maintain permanent weight loss.
We played musical trivia and visited a piano bar nightly where we sang along to modern songs and oldies but goodies. There was bowling and Wii in the sports bar, group photos on the grand staircase, and the promenade was lined with boutiques and specialty shops selling everything from $5 sunglasses to duty-free designer clothing and priceless jewelry.
Each night, we retired to our staterooms to find our bath towels turned into monkeys, dogs, and elephants. When we arrived in Ft. Lauderdale, we experienced no jet or sea lag. Because the ship had reminded us to turn our clocks back for five days, we were now on the same time as Florida, with many in our group signing up for yet another transatlantic cruise…the cruise that used to be a once-in-a-lifetime adventure.
If You Go:
Typical repositioning cruises include itineraries such as Alaska to the Mexican Riviera, Alaska to Hawaii and transatlantic sailing from the Mediterranean to the Caribbean or Florida.
The Liberty of the Seas departs from Ft. Lauderdale for Portugal and Spain on April 8. For more information, visit royalcaribbean.com.